Cleveland, OH. - Members of the Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County (BWCCC) erected a “Put the Guns Down” sign in memory of Saniyah Nicholson. The 9-year-old was killed in Cleveland’s Lee/Harvard Community on June 20, 2018. The organization is committed to lobbying for fair, equitable, and impartial legislation. They are adamant about reminding young people about the consequences of their reckless behavior and the consequences of guns and violence.
Following the death of Saniyah, BWCCC has advocated for a secondary street sign for the little girl.
The child was hit by a stray bullet while sitting in the back seat of her mom’s car while eating ice cream. Her mother stopped at a local Cleveland Business on Lee Road to pick up her teenage son from a boxing club. Within minutes, gunfire exploded, and one of the bullets penetrated the back of the mother’s car and struck the child. Saniyah lost her life.
In 2019, the Council person agreed to work with the family to place a sign to remember the little girl but later changed his mind. He claimed that residents were against the sign. The BWCCC tells another story. The organization has signed petitions from residents of Cloverside where the sign would have been placed approving the sign. The BWCCC submitted a proposal to the former administration and the Council with the signatures of approval attached.
Rather than respond to the proposal, in mid-2019, former Council President Kevin Kelley placed a moratorium on secondary street signs. Kelley formed a committee to develop requirements for potential recipients; the individual had to make an impact in the community, and they must have been deceased for two years. "We were not happy to hear of this requirement, but we respected the rules and the decision," says the BWCCC.
Meanwhile, it was discovered that Councilmembers continued to place in memory of individuals that did not meet the requirements. "We discovered that Cleveland City Council was issuing signs to community members as favors, political reasons, and pressure from the police department. Rules are rules, and guidelines should be followed. However, no legislation exists regarding recipients of Secondary Street signs. We are asking why Saniyah's sign was denied when others were approved. Either follow the letter of the law or the spirit of the law - not both," stated the BWCCC.
The BWCCC spoke at the November 7, 2022, Council meeting. On November 10, 2022, they followed up with a letter to all 17 Councilmembers seeking an amicable resolve which failed on death ears. Clevland City Council as a whole did not respond. On Friday, December 9, 2022, the Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County hand-delivered a letter to Mark Griffin, Law Director of the City of Cleveland, copied to Mayor Justin Bibb and Council President Blaine Griffin.
Here is a snippet of the letter:
"Now, we ask that the City of Cleveland fulfill its commitment to memorializing the tragic and unfortunate death of a 9-year-old child who was shot and killed by teenagers who resided in the Cleveland WARD One Community. Thus far, the responses that we have received have been verbal and convoluted. We hope that this mother expending money in our community will not become a regurgitation of protracted inefficiency in government and disregard for fundamental human rights.
We believe that the Cleveland’s elected and public officials are better than what is being demonstrated.
The acts of the Cleveland City Council appear to be abusing its power under the Color of the Law and, therefore, illegal. Law Director Griffin, we are requesting to know why the Cleveland's Legal Department is not addressing this subject matter. Why is the signage/memorial for Saniyah denied? Pursuant to the law, please provide us with the legal statutes that prohibit the City of Cleveland from legally withholding privileges and fundamental human rights from a mother whose child was gunned down on the streets of the City of Cleveland at no fault of their own.
BWCCC requests that the City of Cleveland and Cleveland City Council keep to the letter of the law or the spirit of the law in all matters, not both. The Ohio Laws are clear. Section 2921.45 - Ohio Revised Code states:
(A) No public servant, under color of the servant’srvant's office, employment, or authority, shall knowingly deprive, conspire or attempt to deprive any person of a constitutional or statutory right.
(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of interfering with civil rights, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
At the Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County, we will challenge systems that most organizations fear. We will openly campaign against any discriminatory practices and abuse against women. Furthermore, the BWCCC has built a solid and supportive relationship with the Daniels family. We will continue to support this family, ensuring that others do not trample on their human rights. Ms. Daniels is in support of this request.
The untimely death of 9-year-old Saniyah made an impact in this region; across the country. We hope that when you get this letter, you have looked over this public policy and if nothing else could you provide us with any appeal process according to the law?
Again, this letter requests a Secondary Street Name Sign similar to other grantees, which the Council unanimously approved.
We look forward to hearing back from you by the end of business day on Wednesday, December 21, 2022," wrote the BWCCC
With crime skyrocketing throughout our region, Saniyah death is said to be the force that helped the City of Cleveland solve more homicides than before. More than any recipient, Saniyah's untimely death changed, impacted and improved the local police department investigative unit and legal system.
On February 20, 2020, posted from Cleveland.com entitled, How Cleveland police managed to solve more murders in 2019 than previous years despite detective shortage, Journalist Adam Ferrisse wrote "Cleveland police supervisors said during interviews with cleveland.com that the amount of work put into Saniyah’s death helped the department lay the groundwork that helped investigators solve more homicides in 2019 than at any time in the previous four years. In 2018, the police solved about 51 percent of the homicide cases, similar to the three preceding years. Detective Ali Pillow said the case prompted Police Chief Calvin Williams to add more resources to the homicide unit. Once the department added more detectives, updated technology, and pulled resources from other teams to help speed up investigations. With those changes, Cleveland police solved 84 of 126 homicide cases in 2019, ending with a 67 percent solve rate. The national solve rate for homicides was 62 percent in 2018, the most recent year data is available, according to the FBI," reported Ferrisse
"The untimely death of Saniyah Nicholson was the most impactful event that rocked the Cleveland Community. Her death changed the way the city of Cleveland Police Department investigate homicides. This is why we should never forget the 9-year-old who sat in the back of her mom’s car eating ice cream but never got out due to gun violence," stated Marva Patterson, the Social Justice Chair of BWCCC.
Several members of BWCCC erected the first Saniyah "Put the Guns Down" Street Sign in the Cleveland area. The second sign will be installed later in the month.
"Violence is destroying the fabric of all communities, especially the inner city. To curve the violence, we must remember how gun violence impacts our entire community. People may say no one wants to remember the past, but, in our opinion this statement is not true. History teaches us about important events so we may not repeat behaviors of bad actors. What happened to this little girl should have never occurred. If we must remind people of her untimely death because of a few lousy apples - so be it. We rather save lives by reminders than lose lives because of blinders. When folks are aware of the consequences they probably will have better decision making skills. Saniyah could have been your child. Maybe the sign will remind teens to think before they pick up a gun and shoot. Death is real, and no family should experience this type of tragedy," stated the BWCCC.
The Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County is an advocacy organization that deals with social justice issues impacting all women and children.
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